WB Gets Real for Fall
Tue May 18, 5:45 PM ET E! Online
By Lia Haberman
Reality, rednecks and 'round-the-calendar programming: These are a few of the WB's favorite new things.
The youth-skewing network, which took a ratings hit this past season, unveiled its new strategy to lure tubers back to its airwaves Tuesday in Michigan J. Frog's razzle-dazzle upfront presentation to ad buyers at New York's Madison Square Garden, which kicked off with a three-song set from Lenny Kravitz (news) (more on him later).
The strategy involves several new shows, including two dramas, three comedies, and a bevy of reality series, a genre the network had largely ignored until now. It also includes the axing of Angel, despite heavy protest from fans and decent ratings.
"Our bad." Network president Jordan Levin admitted to the crowd that the network goofed (we paraphrase) when it overlooked the reality series trend last year. To make up for it, the WB's tapped ber reality producers Mark Burnett (Survivor), Mike Fleiss (The Bachelor) and Michael Davies (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire) to create programming for the upcoming season.
In fact, the net will roll out at least seven reality series over the next year, starting with Fleiss' Superstar USA, an American Idol spoof showcasing the country's worst musical talent, which bowed Monday night.
As for Burnett, he may replace young hotties like Chad Michael Murray (news) and Tom Welling (news) as the WB's poster boy. He's the mastermind behind three new shows for the network, including one untitled reality series and two scripted series: Commando Nanny, a comedy about a former British commando who becomes a Beverly Hills nanny based on Burnett's own life story; and Global Frequency, a midseason drama based on the novel franchise about a covert intelligence agency.
Back to Kravitz, who was performing--too early in the morning by his own admission--to promote the WB's summer concert series Pepsi Smash. It's part of the Frog's effort to offer year-round programming, a trend being followed by all the broadcast nets this year.
Other shows scheduled for this summer include: the aforementioned, Superstar USA; reality series meets quiz show Studio 7 from Davies; sudsy drama Summerland, starring Lori Loughlin (news); and Jeff Foxworthy (news)'s sketch comedy series Blue Collar TV, which is slated to fill Angel's vacant Wednesday night timeslot and (the net hopes) attract much-needed male viewers.
Other freshman series hoping to succeed in the Frog's pond:
The Mountain (fall): Oliver Hudson (news) (Kate's brother) stars in this family saga as the reluctant heir of a mountain ski resort much to the dismay of his more business-minded older brother. But that's okay because big bro' has hooked up with Hudson's character's ex-girlfriend. With McG executive producing, think The O.C. set to a snow-capped backdrop.
Jack & Bobby (fall): Christine Lahti (news) plays single mom to two young sons, one of whom is destined to become the President of the United States. And the titular take on John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, just a coincidence says the net. Right.
Drew Carey (news)'s Green Screen Show (fall): An improv-meets-animation series from duh Drew Carey that inputs backgrounds after the comedian and his friends act out their skits.
Shacking Up (midseason): Fran Drescher (news) returns to the boob tube in a sitcom that features her sharing house with her 25-year-old son and 24-year-old boytoy. Ick.
Rocky Point (midseason): From the Blue Crush folks: Young girl quits college, moves to Hawaii and hangs with the surf crowd. Nice life if you can get it.
Big Man on Campus (midseason): Bachelor braintrust Fleiss taps the college campus scene as sorority sisters and frat brothers compete to be picked the most beautiful Greek.
Wannabes (midseason): Jamie Kennedy (news) returns to the Wbizzle with a catty reality series about young women competing to become starlets.
The only sophomore series returning to the WB next season are Steve Harvey (news)'s Big Time and One Tree Hill, which has become the second-highest rated drama among female teens behind only Fox's The OC. They join veteran regulars on the slate Charmed, 7th Heaven, Everwood, Gilmore Girls, Smallville, What I Like About You, Reba and Grounded for Life.
The following is a night-by-night look at the network's fall schedule:
MONDAY: 7th Heaven, Everwood
TUESDAY: Gilmore Girls, One Tree Hill
WEDNESDAY: Smallville, Blue Collar TV, Drew Carey Green Screen Show
THURSDAY: The Mountain, Studio 7
FRIDAY: What I Like About You, Commando Nanny, Reba, Grounded for Life
SATURDAY: Local programming
SUNDAY: One Tree Hill (rerun), The Mountain (rerun), Steve Harvey Big Time, Charmed, Jack & Bobby